Building blocks of wellness

Hong Kong-based start-up Prenetics brings powerful DNA health testing to the masses

Words: Alexis Ong; Illustration: Carlos Quimpo


As the cost of consumer genetic testing kits becomes more affordable – many now sell for under US$100 – there has been an increasing interest in family trees across the US. In Asia, however, the interest is motivated less by ancestry and more by health – which is why it’s a great time for Prenetics.

In July, the Hong Kong-based start-up signed a US$25.6 million deal with Watsons to bring its Circle DNA kits to 25 countries. Prenetics uses whole exome sequencing, which provides more data than the genotyping technique used by companies like While the latter identifies genetic variants using around 700,000 data points, whole exome sequencing can identify unique and specific genes with more detail using 31 million data points.

Teaming up with Watsons means that the kits are now an everyday sight in Hong Kong’s brick-andmortar retail scene, and could become a mainstream component of modern wellness around the region. While it’ll provide consumers unprecedented information related to nutrition, fitness and stress management, the jury’s still out on cost and efficacy. The basic “Vital” Circle DNA kit is around US$200, while the “Premium” kit, marketed as “the world’s most comprehensive DNA test”, is over US$630.

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